Dear Only Child,
Life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. It’s been you and I for almost five years now. Daddy, too, of course. But you and I have spent a lot of time together over the years.
Each summer I was home from work [I’m a teacher], and I thought it would be the last one of just us together. I tried to make the most of our alone time together.
Remember, the time we laid in the hammocks after looking at the sunflowers? We just stared at the sky while I counted my blessings. You giggled and stuck your feet in my face. We walked in streams, played in sandboxes, and looked at fish in aquariums.
Summer turned into Fall. Fall into Winter and Winter into Spring.
We went to pumpkin patches, hiked in the mountains, rode train rides, saw Santa, sipped hot cocoa, spent a lot of time with Grandma and Pop, tried ice-skating, tried (and hated soccer), and just like that we were back in the hammocks after looking at the sunflowers.
Still no siblings yet. I felt bad that we couldn’t give you a little brother or sister yet.
But lying in the hammocks that day, you turned your sweet little face to me and said, “Thanks for taking me here. I’m having really fun.”
Thank you for saying that.
Dear only child, we want another baby but know that you will always be enough for your daddy and me. No matter what happens.
That day in the hammock your daddy and I were in the middle of the adoption process. I felt so at peace. I had you right next to me, my little buddy. I was so thankful for all our time spent together and that life didn’t work out how I planned.
This way was better.
Then something awful happened.
A month later Grandma died unexpectedly. You were confused. I was, and still am, so sad. Our adoption got delayed.
Dear only child, life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. I’m so sorry that you are so young and have known so much grief.
But look at you. I’m so proud and thankful for all that you have become. Despite everything that has happened you are sensitive, funny, loving, resilient, compassionate, and curious.
I’m so glad that you are my child.
Dear only child, our adoption is active now. We could have another child soon. Whatever happens, I’ll forever treasure all the time we spent just you and me.
Here's to 2024.
I love you,
I always thought I would get more time with my mom. I figured I would have plenty of time to ask her life’s important, deep, and emotional questions when she got proverbially old. I did not. She died very unexpectedly still in excellent health when I was 34.
While I fortunately did not take her for granted -we had a great relationship and did and saw many things together. I did, on the other hand, take time for granted and wished I would have asked her more of the following questions in this article.
I know the subject of mortality can be an uncomfortable, scary, and taboo topic to broach with your parents, but, trust me, you’ll feel better and comforted having the answers to these questions once they do die.
10 Questions to Ask Your Parents
1. What are your funeral wishes?
What songs do you want at your funeral? Do you want any certain scripture readings or someone to say the mass? Do you want a religious or non-religious funeral? Do you want to be cremated or buried? If cremated, where do you want me to keep or scatter the ashes? If buried, where do you want to be buried? How would you like to be remembered at the funeral?
This one my dad and I did know for the most part, and I can say with confidence that we gave her the funeral she would have wanted with her being very traditionally Catholic.
Planning and even writing an obituary together doesn’t mean that your parents are going to die the next day. What it does is have a special moment together cementing these details and then being able to honor their wishes when they do pass.
2. Do you have a will and how will the estate be handled?
Fortunately, for me, my dad handled all this. However, this is something I’ll need to have a conversation with him soon because, otherwise, I’d be clueless when he passes.
I know dealing with all of these issues caused him much stress at a time when he was already stressed and grieving.
Talking about these things ahead of time helps you all get your ducks in a row and alleviates some stress when the time comes to confront these issues.
3. Where are things?
My dad and I have had somewhat hilarious times trying to locate where my mom kept things (More like almost wanting to pull out our hair). She was meticulously organized and even still we had trouble finding things.
Take inventory of your parents’ belongings before they pass. Where do they keep the special star they hang on the Christmas tree? Where do they keep all the family pictures? The addresses and passwords?
I suggest doing a walk-thru and writing it all down.
4. What is your best piece of advice for me?
I long to call my mom up on the phone and just hear her advice one more time. While I have many memories of all the advice she has given me over the years, asking your parents this question now when they are alive, will be a priceless thing to have when they are gone.
I am pretty sentimental, so I would write down the advice and put it in a scrapbook or memory book. You can even record your parents giving you this advice.
5. What were your own parents’ deaths like for you?
I recently found my mom’s journal where she wrote down everything from both of your parents’ deaths. I felt like after reading that I knew and understood my mom on a deeper level. It’s a conversation I would have liked to have had with her in person.
We tend to shelter people from death and our true feelings behind it. I think talking with my mom about her mom’s and dad’s deaths would have helped me prepare for her death more and would have helped me understand her more when she was alive.
6. What was our childhood like for you?
Being a mother myself I gained a whole new perspective of how much my mom really loved us as kids. We talked about some of the hardships she faced being a new parent and the things that she loved.
If this isn’t a conversation you have had with your parents make a plan to have it.
7. What is your favorite memory of us as a family?
What was your favorite tradition? Your favorite vacation we took? What did you love most about our family? What was special for you?
8. What is/was the hardest part of being a parent?
You will probably find that knowing the answer to this question will give you great insight into your parents and be able to relate to them more.
9. What has been your proudest moment for me?
No one is quite as proud of you as your parents are. Ask them what that moment was. You’ll relish knowing this for the rest of your life.
10. What should I pass on to the next generation?
The hardest thing for me about my mom’s death is that she only knew my son for four years and will never meet the next child. While I talk about her every day to my son and her memory will always live on through pictures, videos, stories, and traditions, I would love to have something specific prepared by her to share with my kids.
This could be a video recording, letters written to your kids by your parents, recipes, photo albums, a scrapbook, an extensive interview of your parents, jewelry, articles of clothing, or precious relics, statues, and antiques.
I hope this inspires you to have a conversation with your parents. I know I will be with my dad. And, above all else, continue to spend quality time with your parents. Life is precious.